Random act of kindness: FAIL

7 Aug

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While I was in Chicago for work last week, I met up with a friend for breakfast one day before the office opened. We agreed to meet at Do-Rite Donuts because it was close to my hotel AND had gluten-free and vegan options. (I don’t even want to know what they use to make a donut that doesn’t contain flour or eggs – I assume tree bark.)

Because I’m mildly OCD (and – more realistically – because she had to take a combination of trains and busses, whereas I only had to walk around the corner), I arrived 10 minutes before she did. I decided to grab a donut and hold a table for us outside since the place seemed fairly busy.

The donut selection was overwhelming, and it became even harder to focus when a homeless man shuffled into the place, slowly panhandling his way along the line leading up to the small counter. Everyone looked uncomfortable, so when he got to me, I said, “I won’t give you money, but I’ll buy you a donut if you’d like one.”

The cashiers heard me and we exchanged a look while they patiently waited for him to point to a donut. (Of course he chose a premium gluten-free flavor.) Then he leaned across the counter and tried to get them to bring him a cup of milk (which they said they didn’t have) and started asking about what else they had back there that he could eat. I felt a bit callous, denying a homeless person food, but I also don’t like being taken advantage of, so I reset expectations with him quickly. “No – sorry. I’ll buy you a donut, but that’s all. Let’s go.”

I paid and left, heading outside to claim a table. He, however, remained inside, presumably asking someone else for something. He must not have been successful, because he emerged a few minutes later, holding the donut I’d bought him. Looking at him, I allowed myself the small feel-good moment that comes with performing a random act of kindness, thinking that maybe we could fix all the world’s problems if we each just help each other out a bit more.

And then I watched as he walked to the curb and threw the donut on the ground. He stumbled around it for a bit, and I couldn’t tell if he was trying to pick it up or what, but he resolved my curiosity by drawing back his foot and kicking it, sending it sailing out into the rush hour traffic. Without a backwards glance, he shuffled down the block.

I guess he decided gluten-free was some bullshit.

Miss Moneypenny Saves the Day

20 Jul

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It was storming when I went to sleep, so my cat, Miss Moneypenny, was a bit out of sorts. A few hours later, she woke me, running across the bed. Thinking she was making a play for mid-night attention, I tried to tip her over and make her snuggle – a move she usually goes with. This time, however, I was met with fierce resistance.

She was sitting near my head, and I could feel the twitch of her tail whipping my face. I nudged her, thinking she’d jump off the bed. No luck. Instead, she made a weird little chirping noise that I’ve only ever heard when she sees a bird out my window.

I turned on the light so I could assess the situation. It was 1am and she was staring fixedly at my bedroom curtains. I followed her gaze and spotted it: high on the curtain rod, her grey toy mouse.

“Miss Moneypenny,” I said. “You just now decided you needed to play with your mousie?” I stood on my bed so I could get high enough to knock it down – and then realized it was NOT her toy mouse. It was a real one, with huge ears and frightened eyes.

What was a mouse doing IN MY HOME? And how did it get up on top of a curtain rod, 8-feet in the air – at 1am?!

Miss Moneypenny was riveted. I considered knocking the mouse down so she could play with it, but decided: a) That would be cruel to the mouse, and b) There was a strong possibility I would lose sight of the mouse.

Decision made, I got an empty trash can and slid it up under the mouse. The mouse must have been wondering how it was going to get down from its high perch, because it (literally) jumped at the opportunity I’d presented. I slid a notebook over the top of the trashcan to makes sure I only had to do this ONCE. Dressed in my hot pink plaid pajamas – I slid my flipflops on and headed out to the DC street to release it.

Job done, when I came back to my bedroom, Miss Moneypenny was in the same spot, tail twitching, pacing to get a better view of a now non-existent mouse. Her obsession alarmed me – was there ANOTHER mouse I hadn’t found? Fortunately not, because after 45 minutes, she finally relaxed and we were both able to go back to sleep.

Who knew I had a mouse(r) in the house? She just covered her rent check for the next year.

 

Just stretching my voice…

3 Jul

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The other week, Alan and I were driving home from somewhere when I started to yawn, then – because it felt good – made some sort of gurgling noise with my throat. When I finished, Alan was looking wildly around the car.

“What the hell was that?” He looked panicked.

“My yawn?” I asked.

He turned to look at me. “That was YOU?”

I nodded. “I was stretching my voice.”

“You were doing what?” he asked.

“I don’t know – stretching my voice. It felt good.”

“It sounded like a mechanical noise,” he still looked dubious. “I thought something was wrong with my car.”

“Nope, just me.” I smiled. “Did I sound like Chewbacca? Because I kind of felt like there were a few different pitches coming out.”

He just shook his head and continued driving.

I tried to recreate the noise.

“Please stop,” he said, his eyes on the road.

I obliged, but continued to silently contort my mouth, thinking about how I might be able to make that sound on command.

Alan raised his eyebrows and cast a sideways glance at me. “Seriously?”

“You need to be more supportive of my hobbies.”

Long silence.

“Are you trying to tell me that ‘stretching your voice’ is a hobby?”

“Yes.”

“Since when?”

“Since I just discovered it.”

I don’t know how Alan can drive straight when shaking his head that hard.

Lost in Translation?

29 Jun

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I was at a coaching workshop two weeks ago taught by two Harvard professors up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The goal was for participants to learn how to facilitate sessions using the material themselves, so the teachers would alternate between treating us as regular audience members experiencing the material for the first time and then as facilitators, learning how to use the material with other people.

As you’ve probably gathered, it can be confusing to try two different approaches to the material, so to simplify things, they asked us to pretend we were somewhere else (San Diego) when we were going through the program simply as learners, and then would ask us to, “Come back to Cambridge,” when they wanted to address us as teachers-in-training.

Our first day, we toggled between “San Diego” and “Cambridge” regularly. I found it to be a clever way to shift gears easily and know which role I was playing (student or teacher) during the program.

At the end of that first day, we were broken up into small groups to prepare our own presentations. While we were doing this, the instructor called out, “Think about what you experienced when you were in San Diego – that will help you with this!”

A woman from my group leaned over and said – in full seriousness, “Can you explain this whole San Diego thing to me? This seems like a smart group of people – how are they tricking themselves into believing that THIS is San Diego?”

I have no idea.

Just a typical lunch conversation

10 Jun

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“Hey, do you want to see four dead mice and a dead chipmunk?” my dad asks while we’re eating lunch. I’ve just arrived in Michigan for my nephew’s graduation.

“Where are they?” I ask, thinking they’ve just been caught in a trap. “Attic? Garage?”

“Basement,” my mom says, with a roll of her eyes.

“Why do you have these in the basement?” I ask.

“I’m cultivating dermestid beetles,” my dad announces proudly.

“And why are you cultivating dermestid beetles?”

“So I’ll have enough to clean the deer skeleton I picked up,” he replies, as if it should’ve been obvious.

“And where is this deer skeleton?”

He stops eating and points at the floor.

“Under the porch?” I ask, now imagining a rotting carcass as I put a fork full of sauerkraut in my mouth.

He nods.

“Did you get the whole thing?” my mom asks, surprisingly supportive for someone who prides herself on an immaculate house.

“Close,” he says. “I was able to pick up almost everything but I think I missed a few ribs.”

There are a number of relevant questions… Where did he find this skeleton? What does he plan to do with it? Exactly how did he pick it up? How long has it been under the porch?

Instead, I settle on, “Isn’t it stinky?” since I’m now sniffing around like a pig seeking truffles.

“Nah,” he says. “The maggots did a pretty good job with it. The beetles are just to finish the job so it’s perfectly clean.”

Of course.

Isn’t this how YOUR visits home sound – or is your dad not a biologist?

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